On March 2, USF leaders celebrated the opening of the Confucius Institute under red paper lanterns. The festivities included musicians, dancers and the presentation of a traditional Chinese ink scroll portrait of Confucius.
The institute was created to provide an “understanding of two cultures,” according to a representative from Nankai University. It is a bold step taken by USF to provide global access to its students.
The Chinese government donated $100,000 for the institute, an amount that was matched by USF. The University’s financial commitment, however, comes with a moral cost.
The violence being perpetrated against Tibetan protestors by the Chinese government is a stark reminder of the human rights violations that have become standard within the global giant’s borders.
American corporations have long been willing to overlook labor and environmental violations, as they often result in lower prices for services and goods.
These perks lead those who benefit from China’s lower regulations to turn a blind eye to rampant political oppression.
China’s economic power is hard to ignore for those countries with the power to apply pressure. According to CNN, China has $1.2 trillion in cash reserves. That amount is enough to destabilize the most developed nations. It’s easy to see why so many are comfortable remaining silent on human rights issues.
Human Rights Watch describes China as “a one-party state that does not hold national elections, has no independent judiciary, leads the world in executions, aggressively censors the Internet, bans independent trade unions, and represses minorities such as Tibetans, Uighurs, and Mongolians.” The organization also recently released a report about the upcoming Olympic games explaining that “foreign journalists continue to be harassed, detained, and intimidated by government and police officials.”
Overlooking other concerns, cia.gov notes only that China is a major contributor to human trafficking, something that exists outside of government control.
But the public face being presented at the institute hides the laundry list of issues that are diametrically opposed to everything higher education in the United States is supposed to stand for.
And now USF students are being asked to ignore the giant dragon in the room.
President Judy Genshaft remarked that USF recognized that global connections are an essential ingredient for preparing students for a global community. Hopefully, knowledge gained by students at the Confucius Institute will be used to demand accountability from those who deal with China and help prevent further atrocities.